Indian restaurants cook a whack of different curries to order. Ever wonder how they do it? For sure they don’t have 25 curries simmering away in the kitchen. Nobody can run a restaurant like that. They have a secret. Indian restaurant curry base.
It’s cooked to order and it’s done using curry base. Curry base is at the heart of every Indian restaurant kitchen. Giant pots of it simmering away. Once I heard about it I started asking waiters. I met kitchen staff. I even talked about it with a chef or two. I was on the inside. Now you are too…
Never heard of curry base? Not surprising. For the longest time it was a closely guarded secret. Even now, Indian restaurant curry base recipes are carefully guarded secrets. A hint of carrot – ooohhhh. A bit of cabbage – aaahhh. A green pepper – ssshhhh. But that’s how it’s done.
It’s a bit ridiculous. In it’s simplest form it’s just a lot of boiled onions with some spices and oil. Seriously. Cook it up and it tastes like a weak curry onion soup. Nothing to it. Not particularly tasty. But when you layer the Indian restaurant technique on top it’s magic. Something wonderful happens to that insipid onion soup. It caramelizes. The depth of flavour is – well it’s restaurant quality.
It’s not hard. It’s just a matter of rolling up your sleeves and getting it done. Chop some onions. Add some water and some seasoning and boil. Puree. Boil some more. Done.
You can get a quick lesson on cooking Indian restaurant curry here.
One thing to note. Indian restaurant curries are big on oil. This recipe is about as low as you can go on the oil. Don’t use less. It just won’t work. Indian restaurant curry is a lot of things but low calorie it is not.
If you want to cook Indian restaurant style curries this the first step. The real deal.
- 8 large onions - about 2.5 lbs peeled weight
- 6-8 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 1/2 Tbsp ginger coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cumin powder
- 1 1/2 Tbsp coriander powder
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 12-15 fresh cilantro stalks with leaves - roots removed
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 12 cups boiling water
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes - one small can
- Bring the water to a boil (a kettle works well for this).
- Quarter the onions and then break them apart into petals (roughly - two or three petals per quarter)
- Combine all ingredients except tomatoes, bring to a gentle boil and simmer, loosely covered, for one hour. Use a big pot!
- Add tomatoes, stir and simmer an additional 20 minutes
- Let cool slightly. Blend to smooth consistency. Make sure you remove the centre cap from the blender lid and cover the hole with a cloth or you will be cleaning the ceiling. Alternately you can use an immersion blender.
- Wipe out the pot and return pureed curry base and simmer until the oil separates out - this can take an hour or more. Stir the oil back into the base. At this point you can portion out the base into 2 cup portions and freeze if desired.
If you don't want to wait an hour or more during step 2, you can safely stop after 30 minutes - it's not the end of the world.
Don't worry if you get a bit of "scum" on the surface. Just mix it back in.
This recipe makes enough for 10-12 curries (restaurant size portions)
Use within a week or freeze in 2 cup portions (one curry worth)